This was not really a concert in any traditional sense. It was a combination of experimental film and new music. Scores composed by Ali Helnwein are designed to accompany three short films by Alex Prager, who works out of Los Angeles. The films were screened and the scores played by the DSO with assistant conductor Karina Canellakis on the podium.
Many in the audience were confused by the concert, which lasted less than an hour, even with the requisite welcomes, without-further-ados and speeches by all involved.
Even the first orchestral selection appeared to come from nowhere since the program didn’t mention one. It was Stravinsky’s Scherzo a la russe and what it had to do with the very American flavored films went unexplained.
Disclaimer: I am writing out of my genre. I know little about film, even the commercial ones. What follows is an effort to describe my experience for the reader. There is a comment section at the end of this review and we encourage all of you to use it.
The films were from the symbolist, or maybe surrealist, school. There is some Hitchcock and Bergman influence, as well as dabs of Dali and flecks of Fellini. They describe various states of mind as opposed to being narrative.
The films were Despair, La Petite Mort and Face in the Crowd. From the titles, we could discern that these were not going to be lighthearted excursions. The central character of all three was the embodiment of the iconic 50’s Donna Reed-ish woman, with a perfectly coiffed 50’s flip hairdo, crisp white dress with a tight waist and full skirt, pointy breasts and red lipstick and heels. In all three movies, this Everywoman finds herself trapped in a world where she doesn’t fit. She walks through crowds unobserved.
There is a Perils of Pauline storyline. In one film, an upsetting phone call on a pay phone sends her down the street, heels clicking, to kill herself by leaping off of a building. We see her float down, like she is suspended in air, and then see the body, still not a hair out of place, crumpled on the street.
In another, she is hit by a train. In one of them, she walks out of a lake, perfectly dry (even her “do”) to the amazement of a Fellini-esque group of intense onlookers.
Helnwein’s music was always appropriate to what was happening on the screen—sometimes illustrating and other times commenting. He used a lot of musical bits from classical composers, such as Bach, but never quoted directly, borrowing the harmonic underpinnings or melodic fragments instead.
» We have a complete schedule in our Soluna Festival special section on TheaterJones. Look for features and previews during the Soluna Festival in our special section. For more information, such as ticket prices, visit mydso.com/solunafestival